Welcome to Clubhouse Chat page. For those of you who are not a member won’t be aware that the location of the Clubhouse is shrouded in mystery. The only way to visit the clubhouse is via membership or invite to the clubhouse tearoom. Every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation I’ve had with a guest over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, about their work in progress, or latest book release. I’ll be talking to all sort of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers.
Today I’m welcoming, Polly Mordant to clubhouse tearoom. Welcome Polly.
Hi Paula! What a busy week I’ve had.
I’m so pleased you could make it, Polly.
Thank you so much for inviting me. I see you have lemon drizzle cake … I LOVE lemon drizzle cake!
And, what drink would you like to with it?
A Flat White Coffee, please.
Now we have our refreshments may I start by asking when you first began your writing journey what drew you to your chosen genre?
I’ve always been a fan of supernatural fiction. As a teenager, I discovered the nefarious Pan Book Of Horror Stories before progressing on to more serious stuff, like M. R. James, Ramsey Campbell, and other English Supernaturalists. I couldn’t help but adopt the genre when I started writing.
What writing elements do you think are your strongest points, and what would you like to do better?
To me, a bookstands and falls on its characters. I like them to be relatable – for good or ill – so readers buy-in to their circumstances and feel something about their plights. I put a lot of work into this aspect. What I have to work harder at, though, is conveying emotion so that it’s realistic and not cheesy or overblown. I rewrote Angels completely to get the emotional range of Emma, my MC right. I still find it a struggle.
Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter or let the characters lead you?
I have the general direction of travel in mind and the ending. After that, I’m a bit of a pantser. When it’s all out, I then spend a lot of time tying it all together. There are three plotlines in Angels and at least four in the sequel. Interweaving and aligning them is quite a problem!
Choosing only three of your favourite authors, can you list them in order 1 begin the top of your list and say how have they influenced your writing?
George Eliot: Middlemarch. The first properly feminist novel. No one writes passive/aggressive characters quite like Eliot. She influenced my desire to convey nuance in relationships. Again, sticking with character development (seems to be a bit of theme here, lol!) I’d go with Stephen King. He’s the apotheosis of an American middle-western novelist. Small town – big concepts. Lastly there would be Phil Rickman. My stories, though I’m careful not to rip him off, have similar settings and ambiguous foundations for the weirdness. Some characters know what’s really happening, some are kept in the dark. I kinda like that and definitely try to emulate it.
What did you learn when writing your book? In writing it, how much research did you do?
Angels is my first novel. What I didn’t realise was how the story takes on an organic life of its own. I absolutely knew how it was going to end when I began it, and the first fifteen chapters were all aimed at this specific ending. The later ones weren’t having any of it, though. Being unable to pound them into submission, I had to abandon it for a completely different denoument.
I didn’t need to do too much research about the ecclesiastical elements of the story. I’ve always enjoyed reading a studying church history and architecture. But research is a big part of the novel. Emma, my main character, has to take herself off to a cathedral library, no less, to find out about the curse, which stalks the village. (Muahaha!)
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I don’t have one. I’m a full-time carer for my hubby so my life really has to revolve around him. I write when I can but when I’m in the middle of the story I won’t ever stop mid-chapter. If I can’t get it done in one sitting, I email it to myself and if real life gets in the way, I’ll finish it on the loo, before I go to sleep, wherever! So, in a way, I’m always at it. I may limp my way to the end and review the next day, but I always make sure at least the bones of a whole chapter gets written.
Do you set yourself a daily word count?
Gawd no. That would just shut me down. I like to get at least two chapters a week written, though, and they usually come in at 3000 words each. That’s harder to achieve later on in the book because by then the plots are getting complicated and I’m having to spend time backwriting and nuancing to get all the threads aligned.
How do you select the names of your characters? Do you know everything about them before you start writing their story?
My main character was originally called Kate. She befriends the local vicar and he was called William. One of my beta readers kept referring to them as Kate and Wills so that had to change. Plus I couldn’t quite get into her. I was stuck on how to make her abused personality strong enough to drive the plot of the novel. I changed her name to Jess – it seemed an arsier name, but I didn’t like her much. After I settled on Emma, something clicked and it seemed to go okay from there.
What was your hardest scene to write?
The denouement of Angels was tricky because Emma had to confront her nemesis. It involved using all her emotional register. The first draft had it as only 3000 words—an average chapter. It was pants. Too big a ‘scene’, too much set up to dismiss it within my normal pattern. So I wrote it over two chapters, interspersing it with a rescue. It meant I had to ramp up the tension, bring it down, then ramp it up again. I was in bits lol!
Do you have a favourite moment in the book?
Yes. The book centres around Emma, who’s had her confidence shattered by her emotionally abusive partner. Somewhere near the end she says: “We’ve got to get the men out, make sure they’re safe.” I don’t know where that came from, but that sort of reversal from the stereotype (of it always being the woman who’s rescued), always makes me smile when I think about it. And also, I guess, because it also marked the absolute moment of truth; when her confidence returned and she became fully in control of herself and the situation.
It you want to find out more about Clubhouse Member’s Books don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops too.